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Apple Does Windows in Growth Quest

New software adapts the company's Intel-based computers to the leading operating system.

April 06, 2006|Terril Yue Jones | Times Staff Writer

For Apple devotees, hell has once again frozen over.

Apple Computer Inc. said Wednesday that it was offering software that will allow dreaded rival Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system to run on Mac computers made by Apple that use processors from Intel Corp.

Apple hopes it can entice hordes of Windows users to switch loyalties and raise it beyond its status as a niche player in the U.S. personal computer business, where its market share barely surpasses 4%.

The initiative, which enables an Intel-based Mac to become a full-fledged Windows PC, was welcomed by investors. They sent shares in the Cupertino, Calif., company soaring $6.04, or nearly 10%, in regular trading to $67.21. After hours, the shares edged up an additional 19 cents.

Apple used the slogan "Hell Froze Over" in October 2003, when it introduced versions of its iTunes Music Store and media player software that were compatible with computers running Windows.

Apple has long positioned itself as the populist alternative to Microsoft and Windows-based PCs, which account for more than 80% of the market. The firm put Intel microprocessors into some Macs in January. By the end of this year, all new Apple computers are likely to be powered by Intel chips, which run most Windows PCs.

Apple fans praise the look and feel of its computers and the stability of its OS X operating system. But many applications from independent software firms, such as certain photo management programs and game software, are available only in Windows versions.

Running Windows "potentially could be a significant game changer" for Apple in its competition with Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and other makers of Windows-based PCs, said Shaw Wu, who follows Apple for American Technology Research.

But Van Baker, a consumer technology analyst with market researcher Gartner Inc., doubts that the capability will have a dramatic effect. It might, however, encourage Windows users who are on the fence to make the move, he said.

"What it does for Apple is it will remove another barrier to people attracted to the Mac -- to the iLife software suite and to its industrial design -- but who just can't give up one Windows app," Baker said. "It gets them over the hump."

Apple users had mixed reactions to the Windows news.

"Fascinating stuff, it means I'll now never have to buy a PC," said a forum participant at

"Word to the wise: Windows running on a Mac is like Windows running on a PC. That means it'll be subject to the same attacks that plague the Windows world," said another posting, referring to periodic security breaches that bedevil Windows.

Users who install Apple's software, called Boot Camp, won't be able to jump between Windows and OS X at the flip of a switch.

"It's not the most elegant solution because you have to choose which operating system to boot up and can't switch the OS without rebooting the machine," Baker said. "If they had done two virtual machines where you just toggle between Windows and OS X, it would be more appealing."

The move could be slightly positive for Apple's business and a small setback for Microsoft, Goldman Sachs analyst Rick Sherlund said in a note to investors.

"This is another step in Apple's efforts to expand its total addressable market to include a more mainstream audience," Sherlund wrote.

The software to run Windows on Mac computers will be included in the next version of OS X. It can be downloaded now in a beta-testing mode from Apple's main website. Users must burn a disc with the software and install it using a "full-inflation" copy of the Windows operating system, said Brian Croll, director of product marketing for OS X. Such a program costs about $200.

Apple emphasizes that it won't be selling Windows directly or providing customer service for it. Microsoft was not involved in the initiative.

Croll would not say how much the next version of OS X would cost. Apple charged $129 for the last OS X system upgrade, from Panther to the current Tiger.

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